Khan drives on to victory as wheels come off Donald's BMW challenge
Monday 24 May 2010
As a tale of the unexpected the BMW PGA Championship kept up the surprises right to the end. Teeing off seven strokes behind the overnight leader, Chris Wood, and more than an hour before the last pairing, perhaps only Simon Khan and his nearest and dearest believed he could win the flagship event of the European tour – but win the 37-year-old from Essex did.
Khan's 66 was the best round of the day on the revamped West Course. If the prospect of a play-off was his best bet when he set the clubhouse target at six under par, in the end there was no need for any additional golf, aside from a few warm-up shots on the practice range which became redundant.
That was because Luke Donald had taken a double bogey seven at the 17th. Donald had looked a strong contender to be the third home winner in five years but his drive squirted into the jungle on the right of the fairway. His escape only just emerged from the undergrowth and he was still short of the green in four.
So going to the final hole, Donald needed an eagle to tie. It was the scenario Wentworth owner Richard Caring was hoping for come the climax of the tournament. But Donald's tee shot finished in the rough and there was no chance for the former Ryder Cup man to attempt a "Hail Mary shot" at the green.
Instead, Donald laid up and then had to hole his wedge shot over the new creek. It very nearly went in, spinning back just inches from the hole. The four left Donald tied for second place with Sweden's Fredrik Andersson Hed, the pair a stroke adrift of Khan.
If the West Course has been completed changed in the last year, Khan's career has undergone an equally big transformation in the last six months. At the Hong Kong Open last November Khan broke down in tears when he lost his European Tour card. Without his privileges on the elite circuit, he was unsure how he would support his wife, Lesley, and five-year-old daughter, Ruby.
But within weeks Khan regrouped and headed for the Qualifying School, a gruelling six-round marathon which he won to regain his status. Yet this week's performance came out of the blue until he found a magical putting touch yesterday which earned him six birdies and only one bogey – and a cheque for £637,000, comfortably the largest of his career, as well as a second tour title.
"This means the world to me," he said. "It is what I've always dreamed about. I've been playing so well tee-to-green but the putting finally came alive today. This is as much for the family as it is for me. They stuck by me through the bad times."
Khan has been coming to Wentworth since 1984. In 2004 he watched as his friend Scott Drummond, another unlikely outsider, won the championship and was so inspired that the following week he won his only other title at the Wales Open. Two years later he was the runner-up to David Howell here.
"This tournament is the reason I started playing golf," said the new PGA champion. Just to be here is unbelievable. I've always felt confident around this course and with the new set-up it puts even more of a premium on accuracy and that's may strength when my game is on.
"I looked at the scoreboard on the 15th and saw I was leading and promptly dropped a shot at the next. But I felt good all day. Around the turn I was feeling a bit tense but I reminded myself this is what I've always dreamed of and the weather and the crowds really got me going."
A gallery of 25,000, the largest for many years, thronged the West Course, keen to see the only golf tournament in England this year. The good news is that the sponsors agreed to extend their support for a further four years and the tournament will remain at Wentworth, however it is tweaked by Caring and his designer Ernie Els in the future.
Donald missed the chance to virtually secure a Ryder Cup place, which was his intention at the first of three events in a row he is playing on this side of the Atlantic. While Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington could not mount a challenge, two young Englishman got a taste of the big time that can only do them good for the future. Wood closed with a 77 and Danny Willett a 74 but perhaps they will be future PGA winners.
Robert Karlsson, who broke the course record on Saturday with a 62 after chartering a jet having returned home thinking he had missed the cut, had no such heroics in the final round, having begun only two shots back. His putting stroke, so impressive a day earlier, deserted him and he finished with a double bogey and a round of 77.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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